Many of us carry around our iPhone everywhere we go. Thanks to the phone's built-in camera, it's pretty much replaced the need to carry around a basic point-and-shoot. With the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 the photo quality has become good enough to take acceptable pictures.
Was is it?
Sfera takes photography on your iPhone one step further by giving you the ability to capture 360 degree panoramic shots on your 3GS and iPhone 4. Sorry, 3G owners, no love here.
The panoramas can be taken in two ways: You can stand in one place and capture the environment around you, or you can walk around an object (for example a statue) and create a 3D view of the object. In addition, the App can capture 20 seconds of audio to make the panorama feel more "alive." Though the audio didn't seem to add much for us. It just made the file larger, but the option can easily be turned off.
Our Test Drive:
We tested out a few different shots. The App instructs you to move clockwise. Just to see the result, we also tried some counter-clockwise panoramas and most seemed to appear jumpy. In other words, follow the App's instructions.
Perhaps the best thing about capturing a panorama with this Sfera is the ease of use. You tap the screen to begin shooting. Upon tapping, you will see a thin white line running horizontally across the iPhone's screen. Over the line, you will see a small white dot. As you turn, you must make sure to keep the dot centered on the line. This keeps the panorama level, and keeps it from having those obvious "seams" or rips between two captured images.
We also tried having a friend walk in front of the camera while shooting the panorama. They showed up fairly clearly, and didn't seem to ruin the shot. However, circumstances may be different if you have a bigger crowd of people, cars passing, etc, while trying to record your image.
The 3D image capturing also works well. It seems a bit more "jumpy" than a 360 degree view, but the overall quality is great.
The App is actually fun to use. It takes longer than a regular picture, but we have to say that we genuinely had fun taking panoramic shots of different rooms and objects throughout the house. It may be fun for vacationers. (Note: The App's page notes that those wanting the App for professional use, such as real estate should contact the developer).
Sfera is very easy to use and the panoramas look great. It's some of the most fun we've had taking pictures in a long time, even if just for novelty use. It's a neat way to capture cool pictures while on vacation, and may be just another way to use your iPhone for fun shots.
In this version the content can only be shared with users who download the free viewer. It's fun for sharing with other friends who own an iPhone, but you won't be able to email the image to a friend to check out on their home computer. Sadly, this is a HUGE blow to the App's usefulness, because one of the best parts of taking photos or video is sharing it with others. Also, we felt kind of ridiculous standing outside with our iPhone up while spinning in a slow circle.
The Case of the Great App with a Fatal Flaw:
The App is currently on sale for $1.99. At that price, we say it makes a nice novelty item. But our biggest complaint is that the user can't share them with anyone unless they have the Sfera viewer (Free on the App Store). This means that anyone we want to send a panorama to MUST have an iPhone with the App. Still, it very seriously hurts the application's potential. We understand the reasoning: Real estate agents and other professionals can use it to make serious money. Still, it shouldn't be an issue. Imagine how many eager real estate agents with iPhones would be more than willing to fork over the two bucks for an App that lets them create virtual tours with their iPhone.
3 stars (OK, but needs improvement)
Sfera (On sale for $1.99) – Link
Sfera Viewer (Free) – Link